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Cutting through the negative to create a positive

A UK based steel foundry has melted down knives and swords, obtained from a six-week weapon amnesty in London, and worked with a charity and other companies to help turn them into exercise equipment for a calisthenics site in the capital.

Steel Warriors is a charitable anti-knife crime initiative to raise awareness of knife crime in London and provide free spaces for young people to exercise, the first of which opened in Langdon Park, Tower Hamlets on 30th October 2017. The foundry’s involvement in the project was made viable thanks to owner Richard Newby and managing director Phil Grubb having no second thoughts when given the chance to play a major role in transforming the knives collected through an amnesty and producing something quite extraordinary for the community of a London park.

Foundry manager, Shaun Berry, takes up the story: “There was around two tonnes of knives taken off London streets in a six-week amnesty and having the opportunity to take these weapons and turn them into something positive was too good an opportunity for us to miss. It means so much to the community in the area where the first open air gym has been built and all of our guys in the foundry feel so very proud to have been a part of it. We feel like we are doing something good.”

Newby produced the structural bars for the gym and the end caps, the latter of which they cast four at a time.

In principal, Newby Foundries was keen to get involved once they were approached, but there were some difficulties in terms of how to accomplish the end project, because of the diverse range of the mass of materials involved.

Initially the plastic coatings had to be removed from the huge variety of weapons confiscated and surrendered and this was undertaken by one of the partners in the project, they were then melted down and cast at Newby before being sent to a fellow partner in the project, a fabrication company. A good deal of investment in terms of time and finance had to be donated to the production of the patterns to be used and Newby worked on several variations to meet the objective. Some of the original patterns were too large to turn as the foundry didn’t have a crane large enough for the task. The solution was to re-think the design and make them in three pieces and weld them together.  

The next stage raised some issues regarding the various alloys that were present in the knives, swords and axes, as they all contained a variety of alloys reacting differently to the melting process. “Aware of this it was important to provide a base material of sufficient chromium and nickel content to which we could introduce these weapons into to produce the desired castings together with the correct mechanical properties. With tensile results proof of having achieved this, we were confident we had a material strong enough and with the right rust prevention for this outdoor project,” Berry says.

The castings were then fettled and dispatched to another partner to be welded and assembled on the site. 

Speaking about the project, the founders of Steel Warriors, Ben Wintour and Pia Fontes recognise the contribution made by Newby. “Newby Foundries offered their time and efforts completely pro bono and created the specific gym parts in exceptional time constraints [initial enquiry made in July for an October launch] using the unique material.”

Such was the commitment to the project that Newby Foundries took all the employees involved in the production to the opening of the gym on 30th October. “Everyone put so much work and effort in that we wanted them to see the end result and see what it means to the people living in that region – it is something for everyone at Newby to be proud of,” Berry tells Foundry Trade Journal. “So, we hired a bus and took everyone involved down to London to be a part of the day – it was very special. Everyone in the group has been very supportive of this project.

“One of the other positives that came out of the project was the good collaboration with all the companies involved. We kept in regular contact and it was good teamwork between all the partners. Although we are very busy, we are able to operate projects like this over weekends and shutdowns and we are committed to taking part in more, with future projects ongoing at the moment.”

Tower Hamlets is one of London’s boroughs that is suffering from some of the highest levels of youth-related knife crimes and was thus marked as the location for the first Steel Warriors gym.

With the support from the London Metropolitan Police, the charity plans to build more gyms in boroughs across London affected by high levels of knife crime with the intent to expand nationwide. Wintour and Fortes say: “Lives should be built on steel, not destroyed by it.”

Contact: Shaun Berry, Newby Foundries Ltd, Steel Castings Division, Tel: +44 (0) 121 555 7615, email: sales@newbyfoundries.co.uk

Newby Foundries Group specialises in iron and steel sand casting, rapid prototyping and investment casting. 

Established c1890 and developed by five generations of the Newby family, Newby Foundries is now a market leader for shell moulding and iron castings. Further investment and improvement has expanded the group’s expertise into new areas including: Newby Investment Castings – a precision lost wax foundry; Newby RapidCast – a rapid prototype casting service; Newby Foundries Steel – a production steel foundry.

Across the four group companies, the foundries produce 4,500 tonnes of castings a year. www.newbyfoundries.co.uk